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Austin Trammell could be the sleeper of the draft that’s actually a sleeper

And yes, he fits the hell out of the Rams

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Rice Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

In every NFL draft there are “sleepers” — the guys who you will read about in a number of articles about sleepers, therefore contradicting the sleeper tag — and then there are the guys who you Google “(name) NFL draft” and barely anything comes up. The players who have more footage online of them playing football in high school than in college. The ones you are so deep asleep that actually you’ll probably never hear them mentioned in relation to the NFL unless you follow tryouts.

The players like Rice wide receiver Austin Trammell, who I’ve found one college highlight of online so far. And plenty from his seventh grade team.

But why would I even be trying to find highlights of a player who isn’t on most top-300 big boards, who won’t be mocked to anybody, and who had to borrow a spot at Houston’s pro day because Rice isn’t producing NFL players very often anymore. The last Rice player to get drafted was defensive tackle Christian Covington in 2015.

The last receiver was Jarett Dillard in 2009.

But Trammell is different and while few NFL Draft fans have even heard of him, there’s a shot he’ll sign with a team, impress coaches from Day 1 to Week 1, and make that team as a franchise’s “fan favorite” from out of nowhere. That’s the nature of being the ultimate underdog story with a unique — but impossible to ignore — resume.

That still only includes the one damn highlight that I can find.

Let’s start with the measurables, since we can at least confirmed that those happened and they are important for good and concerning reasons:

5’11, 181 lbs, 8 14 hands, 28” arms, 69” wingspan, 40” vertical, 10’4 broad, 26 reps on the bench, 4.62 40-yard dash, 4.13 20-yard shuttle, 6.75 three-cone drill

There is no question that what will stand out to most people is the negative, a 4.62 time in the 40-yard dash. That looks slow, that sounds slow, that is slow for a 181 lb receiver who is trying to impress NFL scouts that are clocking some players of his size in the 4.3 range. And they have a lot more highlights you can find.

Since 2000, there have been 127 wide receivers to measure between 5’10 and 6’ and weigh between 175 and 190 lbs at the NFL Combine.

A 4.62 40-yard dash would tie Brandon Lloyd in 2003 as the 115th-”fastest” such player among them. (But five of the 127 players didn’t run the 40.) Though Lloyd is actually one of the few success stories in the “slow” category, leading the NFL in receiving yards when playing for the Broncos in 2011, there is no doubt that 4.62 can be a career killer for some.

It is a lot harder to get drafted when you’re a 180 lb receiver who doesn’t run a sub-4.5, though it is not impossible. Consider 2019 fifth round pick Hunter Renfrow, who was 5’10, 184 lbs, ran a 4.59 and who only did seven reps on the bench. Renfrow has been a solid option for Derek Carr over the last two seasons.

And his overall measurements were nowhere near as good as Trammell’s. Few of these 127 players can say that they do compare to him as an athlete, outside of the 40-yard dash, which we know that the LA Rams don’t care as much about as most other teams.

A 40” vertical is tied for the third-highest out of the 127 receivers, behind only Henry Ruggs in 2020 (42”) and Javin Hunter in 2002 (41”).

26 reps on the bench is FIRST out of the 127 players, two more than second-place Eddie Royal in 2008, and six more than third-place Markus Wheaton in 2013 and Quinten Lawrence in 2009.

His broad jump ties him with Royal and nine other players for the 17th-best mark, putting him around the 80-90th percentile in that too.

His three-cone time is tied for 14th with two players, .01 faster than Brandin Cooks in 2014. And his shuttle time cracks the top-30. (Cooks has the record, by a wide margin, at 3.81 seconds.)

Taking all of this into account, we can see that Trammell is a unique athlete, but we know that plenty of phenomenal combine/pro day players are not capable pro players. Many of the 127 names are unrecognizable unless you closely follow college football or the draft. Did Trammell produce at Rice?

If not for the opportunity to play a few more games to end his college career, Trammell might not stand out enough to even get a pro day invite somewhere. However, with the opportunity to play a few more games, Trammell demanded that somebody check his speed and agility.

Rice played a shortened five-game schedule and Trammell missed the final two of those, though it was his first career injury that I can find after four years of college ball:

Three games, 335 yards, six touchdowns, 20.9 yards per catch

And this one highlight ...

That does not look like “4.62” to me.

After handling kickoff duties as a true freshman, returning 17 for 332 yards, plus 11 punts for 75 yards, Trammell joined the Owls’ offense full-time as a sophomore in 2018. He caught 62 passes for 632 yards as a sophomore and 60 passes for 725 yards as a junior, averaging a modest 11 yards per catch, but circumstances cannot be ignored.

Rice was mainly quarterbacked by Shawn Stankavage (a Disney movie character name for a football version of Mighty Ducks, if I ever heard one) in 2018, but Wiley Green, Evan Marshman, and Jackson Tyner also saw time under center.

Then in 2019, the reins were handed to Tom Stewart, who split time with Green. Then last season, Rice split time between Michael Collins and Jovoni Johnson, with Collins being the first of these quarterbacks — Trammell has worked with TEN over the last four seasons alone — to show promise as being legit.

And when that happened, Trammell was unlocked for over 20 yards per catch. What helped him reach this level after three years of seemingly developing a career as anything other than a professional football player prior to 2020?

JM: Did you say you played with 10 different quarterbacks at Rice?

AT: Yeah (laughs). 10 quarterbacks in four years. It’s unheard of. It’s a little insane.

JM: That’s wild. You definitely took off with Collins as your QB. You averaged 21 yards per catch in 2020. That’s nearly 10 more yards per catch than your previous career-high. I’m sure you credit some of this to the chemistry you two developed, but were there any other reasons for your improvement in this area?

AT: Part of it was definitely the QB play we received in 2020. I’m not going to lie about that. Another thing is that I played on the outside this past season. It just led to bigger plays. Prior to that, most of my experience came out of the slot. We had some guys get hurt and others opted out. That pushed me to the outside on a more consistent basis. I’ve played both in the past, but most of my production before 2020 came out of the slot.

I really flourished on the outside. I was forced to play a position I don’t normally play. I had to make bigger plays for our team. I’m glad it happened. It gave me a chance to show NFL scouts that I can also play outside. I’m a versatile receiver.

In the interview, Trammell also indicates that he loves any route that “implements a double move” and that he lives for the option route. He could be an ideal tool for Sean McVay to work with if he wound up in Los Angeles, but there is literally more footage of him in middle school and high school than there is of his college career, from what I’ve seen so far.

At Klein High School, Trammell set single and career records for stolen bases on the baseball team, then had nine touchdowns in five games as a senior, including one contest where he had three scores before halftime. He was barely recruited as a two-star receiver in the 2017 class, ranking outside the top-300 for his position, but at Rice he was voted as Freshman of the Year by his teammates despite only catching four passes on offense.

By the time he was a junior, he was firing up the entire team before games by doing backflips:

Hey, who wants to see that highlight again now? But...FROM ANOTHER ANGLE!!!

It’s hard for me to believe I am even saying this about a player coming out of Rice, a guy with one highlight and a 4.62 40-yard dash, but I think Austin Trammell has one of the sturdiest floors of any day three receiver prospect and that foundation should be enough to get him one of the final spots on the 53 at most and a place on the practice squad, at least.

Though his versatility as an inside-outside receiver, his remarkable strength for 181 lbs, his impressive vertical leap, and what little we know about his gameplay speed should be enough to at least give teams optimism about his offensive potential, I think that it is going to be his willingness, commitment, and talent on special teams that secures him a place in the NFL.

Trammell was the most talented and athletic player on the team, maybe the best athlete to go to Rice football in the last decade, and that helped him stay on the field for both offensive and special teams snaps on a regular basis: he had 49 kick returns for 1,096 yards, a 22.4 average, and 35 punt returns for 250 yards. Though Trammell never had a return for a touchdown — few players in the NFL ever will again under the current rules anyway — he isn’t only out there to fair catch.

And we know for a fact that the Rams are scouting receivers hard this year, especially day three prospects who have potential as kick and punt returners.

In an interview with College2Pro Players Platform Show, a thing I had to find deep on the internet, Trammell mentions that he had sports hernia surgery three months ago and while he says he had been fully recovered prior to his pro day, it’s possible he was impacted on his 40-yard dash.

He also mentions:

  • Models his game after Wes Welker.
  • Got married two months ago.
  • Believes that with how he and Collins were working together in 2020, he definitely would have had nine more games like he had over his first three
  • Has loved the interview, draft process with team because he loves talking about “football and life”
  • “I wanted them to know and see and learn that I feel like I’ve been a pro for a long time. How I come at the game, how I prepare, how I train, I take it very seriously. I have had a pro lifestyle and how I go about the game and how I prepare, that’s what I mainly wanted to get across. I wanted teams to see my determination.”
  • Usually plays between 185 and 187 lbs, not 181
  • Thinks his strongest asset is his football IQ, especially as it helps him in the slot and getting open. “I get open and I get first downs. That’s attractive to teams,” said Trammell. “If I make a team, I’ll stick around for a while because of that consistency and knowing what to do and knowing the game.”
  • Knows that never having a “house call on a return” could hurt him, but “I had great averages and every time I got a return, it was further than normal.”

With the way that he speaks and the way that he plays, I believe Trammell is going to be on a lot of draft boards. ProFootballNetwork’s Tony Pauline mentioned yesterday that many teams have increased their draft boards from the typical 125 players to 175 players because they worry that many of the players they perceive to be available in the sixth and seventh rounds will be gone this time. Trammell mentioned over a month ago, prior to his pro day, that he’s spoken to the Atlanta Falcons, but I’m not sure what other teams have shown real interest.

After he posted a 40” vertical and did more reps on the bench than some early tackle prospects like Dillon Radunz and Walker Little, I’m sure more teams sent requests to Rice asking for footage.

I have the same request.

And a shout out to Tate Sigworth on one of my favorite YouTube draft shows, Boom or Bust, for recently mentioning Austin Trammell as a sleeper that nobody was discussing. Let’s see if that changes this year: